Internet fallacies and manipulations of the 21st century
Updated: Nov 1, 2019
2 July 2019, 16:00
In our digital and content-driven world we all consume a lot of information which partly shapes our ideas, views and perspectives of this world. With the automatic, intuitive (process 1) and analytic, slower (process 2) processes of our mind we are prone to plenty of thinking fallacies.
To make people aware of this, Dobbe Boogaerts has listed and scientifically substantiated a number of these fallacies and manipulations which internet users in particular are prone to. Because sharing is caring he offers these insights freely on his personal site and on Patreon.
1. INFORMATION AT HAND FALLACY
In current times we use mobile devices, smartphones, tablets because of their convenience, for gathering information, fact-checking and so on. For this we usually use search engines such as Google, Yahoo!, Bing, Ask.com et cetera, digital libraries such as Wikepedia, ScienceDirect, Google Scholar, Microsoft Academic Search to name a few.
Seldomly are we aware that these web browsers and search engines can be manipulated as happens in dictatorial regimes. Easy accessible content can purposefully be manipulated and framed to influence the public opinion which is quite difficult to detect.
We hold our devices with our own hands and look at it with our own eyes hence the name information at hand fallacy.
2. POST-DATE CONTENT MANIPULATION
Through omnichannel post-date content manipulation whole fake digital sceneries can be created where many people will blindly believe in.
Individuals and organisations can fake their credentials, their corporate social responsability initiatives (CSR), careers and achievements. With the sole purpose of attaining fake brand legitimacy and social status.
A simple case to explain the power of the Internet. For instance, If an article is published
on an internal or external company site on the first of January 2019 with a message stating the organisation is hiring fresh talent. Later in time the content of this article can be changed very easily. For example an organisation were to change the content from ‘We are hiring fresh talent’ to ‘We are launching a new product which consists of the following materials: X,Y,Z.’
With the purpose of building a strong case for winning an intellectual property lawsuit the attempt can be made to alter internal company communications as additional means of proof. When a lot of money is at stake, countless resources are deployed to achieve predetermined goals. Digital sceneries which consist of fake comments, discussions, links to other articles can be created. All in attempt to (sub)consciously influence judges, the jury, involved stakeholders and the public opinion. The content holds little to no legal value if it cannot be backed up by other sources.
3. MARKETING SCAMS
Partnerships are being faked online. Fake brand personas are being created which sell get-rich-quick business schemes for example. Products are being framed as innovative and sustainable while in fact it are rather greenwashing initiatives. As advocate for innovation, we must look at the entire impact of production processes and services including: greenhouse gases, generated waste materials, energy-efficiency, loss of heat, product lifespan and added value for individuals and societies.
Through subjective framing important negative aspects of recent innovations sometimes remain unmentioned. This slows down real, necessary innovation. For example, polluting production costs of new products are often overlooked, not mentioned or taken into the equation. Taking on challenges which reduce emissions from production processes is necessary.
4. POP-UP KNOWLEDGE
Pop-up knowledge is a term which describes what I refer to as the 'Data Relevance Fallacy' (the appeal to acceptance). In essence this fallacy relates to recieving new information displayed on our personal devices and automatically accepting it as truth. This pattern of reasoning is obviously incorrect, yet we fall for it on large scales, since it takes us less energy to accept information than to reject it. In combination with professional marketing, branding, credibility of major brands and, or (inter)national institutions we are more prone to this. According to the dual process theory mentioned earlier, system 2 (analytic, slower thinking) requires more energy than system 1. System 2 has the ability to filter out the instincts of program 1.
In fact, the election results of the USA, have to some degree been influenced by this fallacy. The emails from president candidate Hilary Clinton are an example of this phenomenon. It was a strategic choice to leak the mails briefly before the elections. (Wikepedia 2019, 2016 Democratic National Committee email leak https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_Democratic_National_Committee_email_leak) This was deliberately done to maximize its impact. It was made public to the masss at a time when there was very little to no time to critically review the information. Many people only became aware of the 'email schandal' while they were queing up to vote. With the phenomen of pop-up knowledge, information pops up out of nowhere and people start believing it fairly quick, while the information contains little to zero knowledge and is very often linked to a (political) agenda.
With the exponential rise of internet users, the author wants to make people across the world aware how the Internet plays a significant role in the ideas, views and perspectives we mentally construct of our world. How content on the internet is deliberately being framed by stakeholders. Hereby he takes the lead in adressing policymakers to put this problem on their agenda and broadens the awareness of individuals, groups, societies and in particular persons with legal decision-making authority among us, lawyers and citizens who are on jury duty in the Court of Assize for example. Ultimately improving everyone their websurfing experience.
To spread awareness Dobbe Boogaerts has summed up a brief list of fallacies and manipulations which internet users are prone to. Through his site you can subscripe to his three-monthly ‘Globe at Your Scope' issue.
Topics include trendwatching, digital transformation, exponential organisations, extrapolations, predictions, innovation and unicorn hunting.
Dobbe Boogaerts is a Belgian freelance-consultant and advisor who provides Government Counseling Services (GCS) and Business Counseling Services (BCS) upon request. For serious inquiries only firstname.lastname@example.org